With ominous predictability early reports suggest that United Russia have polled around 63% of the vote in yesterday’s Duma election. When eliminated parties votes are redistributed it is possible that the party will command a 2/3 constitutional majority in Russia’s parliament.
The outcome of this closely managed election reinforces the dominance of the pro-Kremlin party. In 2003 they managed 37.6 % of the vote. The result will also furnish Putin with the “moral authority” he sought to pursue the continuation of his policies into the tenure of a new presidency.
United Russia insists that the constitution will not be changed in order to allow Putin to seek a third term. Political parties must name a presidential election candidate by 23rd December. The exact nature of Putin’s intention to remain as “national leader” may become clearer after United Russia convene to select their chosen candidate on 17th December. Putin retains the option to lead United Russia in the Duma and to become Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.
The party’s leader Boris Gryzlov believes that United Russia will win upwards of 250 seats, but contends that the results prove Russia’s credentials as a multi-party democracy. Given the lack of substantive debate on policy and the toothless character of many opposition parties, this is a dubious claim. In addition to the foregone conclusion that the Communist Party would be represented in the new parliament, however, the likelihood is that they will be accompanied by Zhirinovsky’s LDPR and A Just Russia. As I observed on Friday, the LDPR’s claims to independence have been increasingly questioned and A Just Russia was established as a pro-Putin centre-left alternative to United Russia. Sergei Mironov, A Just Russia’s leader, has indicated that his party may seek to ally themselves with the Zyuganov’s Communists in opposition in the new Duma.
Reports of outright fraud at the polling stations seem to be few and far between. This election has been manipulated through exerting pressure, a stranglehold of the media and utilising the administrative arms of government. Cruder measures have not been required although some instances of intimidation or bribery were reported. It would have been more remarkable in such a huge country covering such a large landmass, of this had not been the case.